The government of Liberia has constituted a five-man committee headed by Dr. Laurence K. Bropleh, former Minister of Information, to probe a petition presented by members of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) on Thursday, March 12, 2020, on allegations of harassment and violence meted out against journalists.
According to a release from the Information Ministry signed by Minister Eugene Lenn Nagbe, the committee members include Momo Cyrus, CEO of the Security Expert Guard Agency of Liberia (SEGAL); Peter Quaqua, former president of the Press Union of Liberia; Prof. Weade Kobbah Wureh Boley, Vice President for Research at the University of Liberia; and Loretta Alethea Pope-Kai, head of the Civil Society Council.
Minister Nagbe said the committee is given the mandate to probe into the journalists’ complaint and report its findings in 10 working days, which will be March 31, 2020. According to him, the group will also be required to put forth recommendations on how to ensure harmony between the state security forces and journalists as they carry out their respective duties.
Nagbe reaffirmed the Weah-led Government’s commitment to a free press, adding that the government acknowledges that an independent media is cardinal to a wholesome, functioning democracy. He said President Weah has repeatedly committed himself to uphold the rule of law in the dispensation of his constitutional duties, pledging that there will be no “sacred cows”.
It may be recalled that scores of Liberian journalists, headed by the leadership of the PUL and Reporters Association of Liberia (RAL), who sought to register their frustration over acts of brutality and other mistreatments being meted against them by state security across the country, came out in their numbers on March 12 to protest against such acts by state securities.
The Journalist marched to relevant institutions, including the Legislature, Executive Mansion, United States Embassy, European Union, United Nations, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and Embassy of the United Kingdom to inform them about the attacks on Liberian journalists.
The decision of the PUL to stage a peaceful protest was reached by plenary, the highest decision-making of the union on March 9, 2020, and it was predicated upon the concern that taking the action of media blackout would not succeed considering the fact that media owners rely on the government for adverts and may not cooperate with the journalists.
The union also unanimously agreed on resolutions that include: prepare a legal team and investigators for immediate investigation and legal actions against perpetrators of brutality against journalists, and a security-media dialogue to end brutalization of journalists and media workers.